After living my whole life in the San Francisco Bay Area, I recently moved to California's Central Coast. Since place is a strong influence on what I write, I am already starting to write stories set in my new location--stories with circling turkey vultures, deer crossing the road, and abandoned almond trees.
Yet some of what I see reminds me strongly of my childhood in the East Bay. The area was more rural then. When I was a child, cabbage fields still flourished near city hall. At my new home I've seen, for the first time in years, the small gray and white checked butterflies that used to alight in the yard near my childhood home. My weedy yard is rife with the wild geraniums our rabbit used to love (we never could persuade her to eat the beet plants instead). When I walk through our weeds, the smell rising from the bruised plants takes me straight back to running through the field at my elementary school, picking the tiny scarlet pimpernel and the English daisies.
Maybe since I'm new to the area, I'm simply looking at the world more closely than I did when I was accustomed to everything. And looking closely, noticing the small things, is what good writing is all about. I need to remember to look as closely at the familiar as I'm currently looking at the unfamiliar. Maybe I'm seeing the sights of my childhood because I'm seeing more like a child who examines the world closely because it is novel for her. I need to be more of a newcomer, more of a child, in how I approach all the new, and all the familiar, that surrounds me.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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